Education Opinion

Face. Book.

By Nancy Flanagan — January 28, 2010 2 min read
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On Monday evening, Stephanie Canada, Oklahoma Teacher of the Year (2008), Washington D.C. Teaching Ambassador Fellow and National Board Certified Teacher started a Facebook page. She called it Teacher Leadership Resources. She invited educators to join--and contribute their favorite links and ideas about teacher leadership.

This is Thursday. There are now 60 members in this group, from more than a dozen states. There have been fourteen links posted and a couple of discussions generated. Teacher leaders have already built a national community, and learned from each other. In less than three days.

Yesterday, Reuters asserted that Facebook is now “locked in” as our default social networking technology--perhaps on a global scale. If so, what does that mean to schools, teachers and students?

Once teachers decide that Facebook is not the Devil, more than a place to share pictures of their grandkids--and school administrators take a more proactive and progressive approach to the filtering issue-- it’s easy to envision a thousand different versions of Facebook High.

Facebook has a near-flat learning curve; if you can’t figure something out, simply asking will get you the answer. Posts can have more than 140 characters, making actual depth of content possible. You can link to provocative resources instantly, and share both casual and reflective commentary--and you can remove posts you re-thought. Facebook started in a dorm room in Harvard--it must be educational.

Yes, a lot of the content is lightweight, even idiotic, and many groups are frivolous. (I personally belong to a group called “I Used to Eat at El-Azteco,” where we fondly reminisce about a hole-in-the-wall, hygienically dubious Mexican restaurant across from the Michigan State campus.) But then--there are plenty of serious and well-funded face-to-face education initiatives that chew up hundreds of thousands in grant monies flying/housing/feeding Important Experts without accomplishing anything more concrete than yet another glossy report. I have a friend who cynically says these nonprofits are saving the world, one white paper at a time.

Fellow blogger Anthony Cody’s Facebook group, Teachers’ Letters to Obama, has 750 members and has generated lively conversation, a book offer--and most important, some new solutions to old problems. And he hasn’t spent a dime. Why aren’t we harnessing this tool in every school and every professional association?

Even the name Facebook feels educational. Weren’t the first schools faces and books?

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.